X (DIX) played at Crow’s Theatre in Toronto from June 14 to June 18.
It starts simply: two people walk onto an undecorated stage, sparsely lit. One dancer is ahead of the other, a gap that widens. As they hold their positions, the leading figure turns to look back at her companion. You already know, from her stance and the look on her face, that she will leave.
What follows is a rupture, metaphorically and choreographically, as X (DIX) quickly leaves behind their intimate and fragile pairing to create something jarring, puzzling and alluring — not unlike the sometimes inexplicable combination of motivations that compel us forward.
The Odyssey, an inspiration for Côté Danse’s production, is an epic about nostos, or homecoming. That story of returning home is largely spent detailing the obstacles that prevent one man from doing so and so it makes sense that many of the scenes in X (DIX) have a strained feeling of striving for something beyond reach. But rather than depicting a narrative of returning to something cherished and familiar, X (DIX) is best understood as a forceful and honest examination of desire, often conflicted: not only addressing the yearning to come back, but also the impulse to leave and to seek. To locate what is elsewhere.
Guillaume Côté’s choreography blends a contemporary style with his balletic upbringing and the cleanliness of that influence, at its best moments, adds a tautness that is both crisp and threatens to unspool — which it does, giving way to an abandon of lurching, loose limbs. The rapid movement is both precise and frantic, creating an impression of agitated restlessness and characters who are driven and rarely at ease. The five dancers (Natasha Poon Woo, Martha Hart, Willem Sadler, Kelly Shaw, Evan Webb) are all commanding and committed, with Poon Woo and an enigmatic Webb particularly dynamic.
This feeling of haphazardness or uncertainty permeates the dancers’ interactions and arrangements. In one charged duet the dancers struggle to remain tethered together in a state of perpetual grasping and falling, failing each other. Their softer, more fluid forms are a reprieve from the sharpness, though no more comforting. In another moment, the primary wanderer (Poon Woo) observes the seductive and intimidating cast in formation, until she is absorbed into the group, snapping into position with them. It’s unclear how we are meant to feel about her easy assimilation. Is this what “home” would look and feel like, or an intoxicating distraction? How will we know when it’s been found? These questions of belonging silently accompany the action onstage.
The music by Son Lux (the experimental band also behind the film score for Everything Everywhere All at Once), provides a muscular, electronic backing, a juddering bass and percussion that elevates the stakes of Côté’s choreography. Imperative lyrics further anchor the show’s themes of roaming: “remind me, come find me,” or “go live another life.”
Simon Rossiter’s lighting design is used to simple and symbolic effect, with defined spotlights that act as containers, restricting dancers’ movements or expanding to accommodate them — though just as often the dancers easily pass through them, revealing the perceived boundaries to be surprisingly porous. Elsewhere the lighting is chipped and fractured into pieces, scattered across the stage, seemingly irreparable.
In the house programme for X (DIX), the production’s title is described as “a symbol of completeness, finality and perfection … associated with the beginning of the life cycle and the inevitable transformations that this entails.” This seems a misdirection to me, too neat for what X (DIX) actually achieves. Nowhere did I get finality or unity or contentment. Instead, the show’s core is in fact longing: searching out and encountering where we are meant to be, where we might fit. That concept of home isn’t always stable, X (DIX) seems to say. It may shift to something different than when we set out. But we will continue to want to find it.
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